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Cephalalgia. 2012 Jun;32(8):600-6. doi: 10.1177/0333102412445224. Epub 2012 May 23.

Characterization of headache after traumatic brain injury.

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Department of Neurology, University of Washington, Seattle, 98195–6097, USA.



Headache is a common and persistent symptom following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Headaches following TBI are defined primarily by their temporal association to injury, but have no defining clinical features. To provide a framework for treatment, primary headache symptoms were used to characterize headache.


Three hundred and seventy-eight participants were prospectively enrolled during acute in-patient rehabilitation for TBI. Headaches were classified into migraine/probable migraine, tension-type, or cervicogenic headache at baseline and 3, 6, and 12 months following TBI.


Migraine was the most frequent headache type occurring in up to 38% of participants who reported headaches. Probable migraine occurred in up to 25%, tension-type headache in up to 21%, then cervicogenic headache in up to 10%. Females were more likely to have endorsed pre-injury migraine than males, and had migraine or probable migraine at all time points after injury. Those classified with migraine were more likely to have frequent headaches.


Our data show that most headache after TBI may be classified using primary headache criteria. Migraine/probable migraine described the majority of headache after TBI across one year post-injury. Using symptom-based criteria for headache following TBI can serve as a framework from which to provide evidence-based treatment for these frequent, severe, and persistent headaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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